In defence of grass

The beginning of summer always means the start of that most mundane of garden chores - mowing the lawn, or as we think of it, harvesting the grass. We have quite a bit of open grass to harvest here and it does take time but despite what many others think of lawn or grass or turf or whatever you call it, we would not get rid of it. Here it's a vital resource that gives more than it takes.

Now let me say first that we never water our grass. We have more than enough natural rainfall to keep it growing. However, in times of drought here, our grass, even in the middle of summer, has stopped growing, and turned brown and crunchy. Grass is such a hardy plant, even when it looks dead and it hasn't been watered for months, it will come back to life when it receives water. We never fertilise it either, even with organic fertilisers. It gets enough nourishment from the pecked or cut remnants of grass that fall and decompose within the blades.

So what do we use our lawn for?
  • It gives our chooks a wonderful place to graze and therefore gives the eggs we eat a much appreciated boost of Omega three and six oils. If were to eat our chooks, their meat would also be rich in these oils. Grass is rich in Omega 3 and 6 and chickens will consume up to 30 percent of their daily food as grass if given a good area to range over.
  • When harvested by the lawn mower, grass gives us most of the green component in our compost heap. If we didn't have grass, we'd struggle to find enough bulk to keep the compost going.
  • It provides cooler air around the house than we would have with hard landscaping. All those pavers, bricks and cement that surround some houses make them hot in summer.
  • It reduces noise and dust around the house.
  • It absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen, just the same as trees do.
  • It filters water runoff before it reaches waterways.
Grass is not the enemy. Over zealous care of grass and wanting grass to look like perfect lawn is not sustainable. But if you have small children, pets or chickens I'm sure you'll already be aware of the benefits of having grassed areas around the home. It doesn't have to be manicured perfection to be beneficial. Just let it grow with natural rainfall and I'm sure you'll be surprised how hardy it it. Then change your attitude towards grass. Even though it needs to be mown (or harvested) it is a productive crop that you can use for chook feed or as a soft place to fall.


  1. I'm going to have to show this post to hubby! We have a lawn that takes about 3 hours to do all of it by a hand/petrol mower... I love it... I love watching the children play... and the times they're playing out there but I can't hear them, now that you've made me think of that. Balls, scooters etc would be so much noisier on a hard surface!
    And now it seems to add weight to the chook idea... aside from there being a hen house already built on the property that is!
    Do you let the hens roam free around the vegie patches or do you keep them away?
    (I've had chooks before, but not at the same time as a vegie garden!)

  2. Mrs B, we always control the chooks. They're allowed out to graze on the grass but they're fenced off from the vegetable garden. They have access to fruit trees, but Hanno has laid a covering of chicken wire around the base of the trees so they can't scratch the roots.

  3. and don't forget its beautiful too, which makes it extremely pleasurable to live with.

  4. Another benefit of grass is that, specially with children, when it rains or snows its able to absorb a lot of the mud. I ran through 2 vacuums the year before we got our lawn in, we had some sidewalk around the house but having grass next to the sidewalk has save us big!

  5. Rhonda, I've also found that it has a cooling effect in the heat of the summer.
    I enjoy my time 'mowing' it gives me time to think. Maa

  6. We have very little grass these days Rhonda, but your post has me rethinking the little we do have, I always regarded it as a pest.

  7. And the colour of grass Rhonda, is just beautiful. I love our lawn and we treat it just as you. The girls (our chooks) just love it in the late afternoon when we let them into the garden to graze. We also have so many birds visiting during the day that enjoy the little morsels they manage to find in our lawn. In the mddle of summer if we haven't had rain we certainly get dry patches but they go as soon as we get showers again.

    Blessings Gail

  8. I think your chooks are the perfect lawn ornaments!

  9. My grass is now the play area for 3 re homed chickens... to be honest there are buttercups.. daisies.. and a selection of other wild flowers and plants... as well as a little grass! lol I wouldn't be without it... x

  10. We love our large yard!!! :) So do the children and animals! :)

  11. Well said Rhonda! It is excess that gives lawns a bad name...people watering at midday and spreading chemicals to make it green and lush when it should be dormant.

    Thanks for the reality check. :-)


  12. Grass is lovely, much better than all that hard landscaping. If you have a vast lawn though and cannot bear the thought of mowing it every week, why not make part of it a wildflower meadow. ( I can never understand why people have vast lawns with nothing in them, they're so time-consuming). You can close-mow a sitting/playing area near to the house, and with the rest just leave it, you can even have mown paths winding through it, plant a few fruit trees or have a patch in the middle and just mow around it to make it look neat. Looks nice and encourages wildlife, all those beneficial bees and insects. And of course, kids love to play in long grass as well, makes terrific hiding places.

  13. I agree wholeheartedly with this post. I wrote a post a while back about the demise of trees in yards and included lawns in the post.
    Modern 'pebble' gardens do nothing for me at all. The only reason my lawn would be sacrificed is to make room for more vegetables or fruit trees.

  14. Excellant points about the benefits of grass. Would love to see some now, it is all white here with several inches of new fallen snow. By the way, I love your new green background on your blog.


  15. There are so many uses for grass- here we use the clippings for mulch in the garden to keep moisture in and weeds out! It works very well, and as it is my only source of mulch, our lawn is quite valuable. Geese love is as well as chickens, yours look like they are enjoying themselves. The only thing I do to our lawn is seed it in the spring because it's a "crop".
    The Girl in the Pink Dress

  16. The beginning of summer? ... That's so far in our future, I jsut don't want to think of that right now... We are now at the beginning of a long and cold winter, so they say...

    Thanks for this post! I will show it to my husband, I think he will LIKE it! ;o)

  17. We have the all invading kikuyu as the farm used to be a dairy farm a long time ago. This means that garden beds need to be fenced about 6-8 inches into the ground usually with timber or bricks to prevent perpetual weeding to remove kikuyu. On the benefits side though the kikuyu matts beautifully and during the prolonged drought it prevented the topsoil disappearing with each gust of wind and gave some green pick for our hens and ducks. We joke that you only have to spit on it to make it grow and even dewy mornings in the drought period sustained it until we had decent rain.

  18. We have just pulled up the last of our grass and your post makes me feel a little upset that we did. However, we have a very small plot and the grass was never growing as our dog kills it with his galavanting and it is in shade all winter.

    We now are creating more raised beds in this area for summer crops.

    Our chickens get loads of greens everyday and when we are out walking we pick handfuls of grass for them as well.

    If we had more space we would probably have left the lawn, but we don't so...goodbye lawn :-)

  19. Wow what a great way of looking at this. I always felt that my grass was a pest and that I should convert it into a bigger veggie patch... but Im happy now to leave the grass for the kids, chickens and the dog. :-D

  20. I agree with Maa - I find mowing really meditative. I know permaculturists aren't supposed to wax lyrical about lawns - we have very little around the house - but I've adopted the lawn around the community centre, just for the value of the clippings as mulch and compost ingredient, and the value of "mowing meditation". There's a mindfulness to it - a bit like being in the shower or a long drive (another thing we permaculturists aren't supposed to wax lyrical about!) that seems to be a really good source for creative thinking.

  21. My chooks love eating grass more than their food. There are corns and sunflowers growing in my lawn (from chook food that my picky hens spread), they love eating those sprous too. I'm glad to have the grass in my backyard.


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